There are few series that can compare to Hajime no Ippo. It’s a series that flawlessly managed to tie together the sports genre with drama, intrigue, and character development. It’s constantly described as one of the best sports anime out there, let alone one of the best series out there.
This is high praise for a show that seemingly no one has heard of. Especially because of, not only who produced it, but who it inspired as well.
Madhouse Studios is one of the top contenders in the game. They’ve been behind some of the biggest anime hits in recent years, from Overlord, No Game No Life, and commercial hit One Punch Man. With Madhouse, it almost feels as if everything they produce is an instant hit.
The studio is known for its beautiful, intricate animation and soundtracks that perfectly accentuate every little moment. With the hits they have behind their belt, even the ones that weren’t household names were classics in their own right.
So it makes total sense that they were the ones behind Hajime no Ippo. The series based on the manga of the same name reads like a classic underdog tale, something we all either can relate to or want to root for. It’s been regarded as a classic by critics, who applaud the story and characters.
Makunouchi Ippo is a downtrodden young man who is constantly bullied. After years of torment and abuse, he dreams of one day being able to change himself. Not one to ever fight back, it seems like that’ll be his life forever, serving those around him only to be repaid with pain.
That changes, however, when he’s saved from another bout of bullying by boxer Takamura Mamoru. After fainting from his injuries, it’s off to the Kamogawa boxing gym to heal. After coming to and assessing his surroundings, Makunouchi is fascinated by what’s around him but lacks the confidence to even try.
It’s not until Takamura tapes a photo of one of the bullies to a punching bag does Makunouchi get the tiniest sliver of confidence to try to hit it. He asks Takamura to mentor him but is denied, deemed too weak. However, Takamura agrees to train him if he manages to pull off a near-impossible task within one weeks time.
Makunouchi throws himself into it, trying his hardest to pull it off and he does. With Takamura as his trainer, he begins his journey to become the best boxer he can be. It’s a great start to a show that doesn’t hold back when packing an emotional punch.
Of course, the show isn’t all tears and despair either. It’s been described in part as a comedy, and it means that. The show is ripe with humor that is just enough to counter the heartbreak that happens during the story.
Stories like Hajime no Ippo often feel like they’re overdone or that they’ve oversaturated the market. Everyone likes a good underdog story, but they get sick of it really damn quick. But that’s only because most of these shows don’t pull it off as well as Hajime no Ippo.
The show blends together all the elements of a perfectly crafted story.
It has humor, heartache, and characters you can’t help but like. And each character is a perfect addition to the story. No one feels like a filler character or a placeholder. Each one is perfectly utilized to the best of their ability.
And while of course, the show is about boxing, it’s never just about boxing. The sport is a conduit for character growth, literal trials, and tribulations. We watch as Makunouchi goes from a shy, bullied boy to an absolute powerhouse who literally kicks ass.
The show takes great care into not only characterizing its cast but the world itself. As a boxing show, the number of references to not only big boxing names but even those who might not be as recognizable. Not only that, but the actual matches and training themselves are something to behold.
The animation is key to the anime, with a fluidity that seems almost foreign to other anime released around that time. The care in which animators put forth showing the boxers feet on the mat, the slow-motion punches, even moments of dodging show not only attention to the show as what it is, a show. But it also puts great effort into showing what boxing is as a sport and a means of growth for the characters.
It makes everything feel more genuine, as the fighters evolve during the matches themselves. It’s never a stale match-up of recycled moves and moments but rather, learning points that are then utilized. The minds of the boxers are at just as much of the focus here, with the inner dialogues matching up perfectly.
Of course, these moments are paired with sweeping scores that only lift the show up further into perfection.
A Well Deserved Season 4
The show initially aired in 2000 with 75 episodes. The series wrapped up two years later, but it wasn’t enough. In 2003 the world got the sequel Fighting Spirit: Champion Road, which takes place after Makunouchi wins his featherweight title. The series even had a moment for Takamura, with a special called Fighting Spirit Special showing how he got into boxing.
The year 2000 feels like a lifetime ago, and it almost is. The world was a lot different then, hardly recognizable from today. Fortunately Hajime no Ippo is powerful enough to transcend time itself. It was announced that in fall 2020 the world should be blessed with a season 4 of the series.
As far as what will happen in the season, we’re not entirely sure. Not much else has been released in regards to the season, only that it will premiere in 2020 unless it’s struck by delays. What we can potentially expect is more of what fans love; a plot-driven by thematic storytelling and interesting characters. This, combined with the smooth animation will undoubtedly lead to a well deserved moment in the spotlight.
But hopefully what this means is that more people will be introduced to the Madhouse classic, seeing all the influential moments that other anime have pulled from.